Feature: Cornelia Arts Building Displays Compelling Variety at Open Studio Event


The Cornelia Arts Building recently held its Spring Open Studio where the public had the opportunity to see dozens of artists. The building, located on the corner of Cornelia and Ravenswood, has provided studio space for artists for over 35 years and is home to over 40 artists who work in a variety of mediums such as painting and drawing, sculpture, photography, engraving and jewelry design.

The building was constructed in 1910 as an ice blockhouse manufacturing business and later became a clay factory (a major supplier to Lillstreet Studios). It was also used to manufacture aircraft parts and was a pipe bending operation before being converted into artists’ lofts in 1986.

Although there was an impressive display of art among the many artists who opened their studios to the public, here are some highlights from this event.

Jason Messinger

Jason Messinger has worked in his studio in the Cornelia Arts Building for 19 years.

Messinger creates ceramic art that plays with the boundary between representation and abstraction. Many images in his work allude to hieroglyphic-like language, symbols, map forms, and characters. A good example of this is Plan (shown above). What is most fascinating about Messinger’s work is that it can change in appearance depending on the viewer’s personal perspective or mood at any given moment.

Although at first glance one might have the impression of spontaneity in his works, on closer inspection one realizes that his work involves careful planning. And in the end, one can’t help but feel a sense of joy and playfulness when interacting with one’s work.

Messinger’s works are part of private, corporate and public collections in North America, Europe, China and Australia.

James Parenti

James Parenti, Figure, seated and stretched forward, 2006. Oil on canvas. Photo courtesy of the artist.

James Parenti has been a resident of the Cornelia Arts Building for just over 20 years. When asked about the benefits of having a studio in this building, Parenti said, “Being around so many different artists has given me the opportunity to learn about other mediums and also to learning new painting techniques that I may have never used before. ”

Although Parenti makes different types of paintings, his series of paintings, titled “Bubbles & Blurs”, is quite intriguing. Figure, seated and stretched forward (shown above) exemplifies this particular style as the viewer sees how Parenti combines his interest in art from several different eras and the techniques and imagery associated with each. Early Cubism is an influence, as are some of the post-Impressionist era works. His work is also reminiscent of the fractured images of David Hockney.

Some of Parenti’s outdoor landscapes were also on display. This has been a recent development in his art and he has stated how much he enjoys the challenge of working outdoors versus the controlled setting of an indoor environment.

Sarah Boyle

Sarah Boyle, Downslope, sun and smoke, 2021. Oil on canvas. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Sarah Boyle has been in the Cornelia Arts Building since 2016. Although most of her works displayed in her studio are landscapes, she has created an impressive selection of works across the various series she has produced over the years. Some of his series of paintings include: voyeuristic views of illuminated windows; romantic Italian getaways; various gardens; and her Tableau Vivant paintings where she creates a narrative by focusing on a particular detail in a room.

What is most impressive about her landscapes is how she explores the dramatic relationship between color, shadow and light. In Downslope, sun and smoke, (shown above), we see how Boyle uses the element of depth to create a sense of movement. What at first glance looks like a very calm landscape, on closer inspection, one senses a rhythmic quality.

An undercurrent of Boyle’s personal emotions also ran through his art. And these emotions are expressed as an intimate desire in many of his scenes.

James Broughton

James Broughton, stolen moments, 2021. Mixed technique on wood panel. Photo courtesy of the artist.

James Broughton has been working in his studio for about a year and a half. He retired two years ago after a successful career in architecture, deciding to focus his energy on his art which he says has always been his original passion.

Many of Broughton’s mixed media abstract works find energy, inspiration and beauty in the many facets and dimensions of the urban environment. “My art is definitely shaped by my career in architecture as I use a lot of construction related materials in my work such as sand, marble dust, gypsum, iron filings and recycled plastics to name a few. to name a few.”

His work, stolen moments (shown above) is a good example of how his art is influenced by his past career. One can see how Broughton’s intuitive vision as an artist is informed by an architect’s keen eye for proportion, depth, light and texture. This work, like many of his other works, explores the dichotomy between building and breaking down processes.

Tiphanie Spencer

Tiphanie Spencer, Do not pull, 2016. Mixed media on paper. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Tiphanie Spencer has been at the Cornelia Arts Building since 2015. In addition to using her space as a studio, she also uses it as an alternate exhibition space to showcase other artists.

Spencer uses mixed media, bold colors, symbols and cultural references to reflect on the human condition while addressing the complex realities around social injustice.

In his work, Dondont shoot, (pictured above) Spencer addresses the senseless shootouts of white police officers shooting unarmed black men. In this dramatic work, Spencer creates a vivid scene of a police officer with a gun in his hand as a deceased black man comes back to life as a skeleton as he pleads for the violence to end and people to listen. his history. His hands are up – referencing the ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ protest chant. His eyes are “stop” media buttons and his mouth consists of a “play” and “pause” media button, symbolizing the need for people to pause and listen. A major influence for Spencer in this particular work is the artist, Keith Haring, who had dedicated his life to the ideals of equality and social justice.

Richard Kasemsarn

Richard Kasemsar, Z-6 Bridge, 2021. Acrylic on canvas. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Richard Kasemsarn is a working architect who moved into his studio just a few weeks ago. His art reveals the eye of an architect as he captures cityscapes with a new perspective. He talked about how kayaking along the Chicago River helped him get a different perspective on the city that he wouldn’t have had if he had walked or driven.

His work, Z-6 Bridge (pictured above), looks like an unused, dilapidated bridge, but Kasemsarn explains that it’s an active swing bridge that crosses the North Arm of the Chicago River. In this work, Kasemsarn creates a strong sense of visual tension because this bridge seems to defy gravity as it juts outward towards the viewer as if it has a life of its own.

Even though many of Kasemsarn’s scenes are empty of people, it creates perspectives that have a strong narrative, telling a story about abandoned structures that once had a rich history.

If you missed the recent Open House, the next one will be Friday, May 20 from 6-10 p.m. and Saturday, May 21 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. The Cornelia Arts Building hosts four open studio events per year and is located at 1800 W. Cornelia Ave. To learn more about the artists and see their work, visit their website.

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